K P Oli is losing influence in one province after another. What made him weak in provincial politics?

Nishan Khatiwada

  • Read Time 3 min.

Recent incidents in Karnali, Gandaki, Lumbini and Sudurpaschim provinces reflect the erosion of KP Oli’s influence in the provinces. How did the man who controls politics at the federal level become weak in provinces?

Kathmandu: Khimlal Devkota, an independent candidate, won the National Assembly election on May 20 from Bagmati Province against CPN-UML’s candidate Ram Bahadur Thapa Badal. Nepali Congress candidate Driga Narayan Pandey won the National Assembly election from Lumbini province on May 31. His rival was CPN-UML candidate Chandra Bahadur Khadka.

Bagmati and Lumbini are not the only two provinces where K P Sharma Oli faction of CPN-UML has become powerless in front of their rivals.

In Karnali, 18 lawmakers filed the no confidence motion against Karnali province chief minister and the NCP parliamentary party leader Mahendra Bahadur Shahi on October 11, 2020. Shahi was elected from the CPN Maoist faction in NCP. That was the first time a chief minister had faced a no-confidence motion in provinces. The leaders from the center intervened and the matter was settled.

On March 17, 2021, CPN-UML decided to withdraw its support for the Karnali province government. Shahi sought the vote of confidence. Four UML leaders crossed the floor and saved his government. They were Prakash Jwala, Kurma Raj Shahi, Nanda Singh Budha and Amar Bahadur Thapa from the Madhav Nepal faction. They stood in support of Shahi defying the party’s whip.

In Sudurpashchim province, though the Standing Committee of UML decided to withdraw support from the Maoist Center-led government on May 24, the Province Parliamentary Party decided to keep the support. Madhav Nepal-Jhalanath Khanal faction commands a majority in the provincial assembly—with 18, out of total 24, lawmakers close to them. All three ministers from the CPN-UML belong to the Nepal-Khanal faction.

In six out of the seven provinces, the former NCP had its strong grip. Now CPN-UML leads four provinces. Even in four provinces, K P Oli is losing his influence and grip.

In Gandaki, for example, Prithvi Subba Gurung’s government had a narrow escape on April 15. If lawmakers from Jana Morcha had not supported Gurung by defying the party’s whip, Gurung could have been ousted.

In six out of the seven provinces, the former NCP had its strong grip. Now CPN-UML leads four provinces. Even in four provinces, K P Oli is losing his influence and grip.

In Lumbini too, Chief Minister Shankar Pokharel would probably have lost his position if he had allowed the rule of parliamentary politics to take its course. The recent victory of Nepali Congress candidates in the National Assembly election is a fresh reminder of how CPN-UML, or rather Oli faction of CPN-UML, is becoming weaker in Lumbini.

Chief Minister belonging to the Oli faction faced a challenge in Province 1 too. The opposition alliance filed a no-confidence motion against Chief Minister Sherdhan Rai back in December 2020. His position was saved after 16 lawmakers from the Madhav Nepal faction withdrew their signatures.

Failing in provinces

Jagat Nepal, a senior journalist and writer said K P Oli could not implement what he promised to the Nepali people and started covering his mistakes with lies over lies which led to the situation of mistrust inside his own party and among the public. “He sidelined his opponents and critics within the party and kept himself surrounded by supporters only.  Then NCP got split and UML got divided into two factions,” said Nepal, “The impacts reached the provincial level and he started to lose his control there too.”

According to Nepal, his followers in provinces became weak after they started to take unconstitutional moves like Oli had done at the federal level. 

Tara Nath Dahal, a press freedom fighter and a political observer, explained four reasons for KP Oli’s loss of influence in provinces: a) Oli pushed his own party into conflict and failed to unite party members as a chairman. b) He failed to take his allies and other smaller parties into his confidence, creating the distance between the federal level and provincial level. c) He failed to keep NCP united. d) Immoral politics at the provincial and the federal level.

Dahal thinks that provincial governments under K P Oli’s control may collapse soon. “If Oli government gets ousted from power, the provincial governments where the Oli have a grip will collapse too,” he said. 

Nepal, for his part, added that it does not matter whether Oli or his party remains in power or not. “The recent immoral politics at the federal and provincial level is undermining republicanism and the democratic system. This is going to push the country backward in development,” he said.